honored

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Apollo Mikhail Baryshnikov with, from left, Heather Watts, Elise Bourne, and Bonnie Bourne Credit Photo ©Paul Kolnik New York City Ballet Choreography by George Balanchine

IMG_4822Perhaps it speaks to my slightly dramatic nature, but I can’t help but reflect profoundly on what will occur just 12 hours from now.*  Tonight I will make my debut performance in one of Balanchine’s greatest (and first) ballets, the iconic Apollo, and I am feeling allllll the feels.

There’s something so special about dancing a Balanchine ballet- working with the illustrious Trust, perfecting each stylized step and unusual count- that changes you.  There’s some stirring sensation in knowing that exactly those movements your body transmits now were carried through time and passed from dancer to dancer, finding their way from emulation by some of ballet’s most legendary to your very own splayed fingers.  It invigorates in such a different way than work choreographed on your body can.  Highlighting the deeply historical nature of our art form, Balanchine ballets not only challenge a dancer’s ability to adapt in technique, but also to punctuate with a pinch of her own spice.

It has been a bit of a turbulent ride, but we had our first dress rehearsal yesterday, and this evening I will join the ranks of some truly incredible artists who have danced this ballet before me.  Mindaugas, our Apollo, is one of the best this role has ever seen (Sandy’s words!), and I can hardly believe I will be dancing with him in his final few Apollo‘s.  To say I feel honored would be an understatement.

If you are in the RI area, do not miss this bit of history.  For tickets.

*Can you reflect on something that has not yet happened?  Is this a new level of overthinking for me?  Uh oh.

Apollo across generations: Jacques d’Amboise, Jean-Pierre Frolich, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and FBP’s own Mindagaus Bauzys.  Thank you to Brenna DiFrancesco for snapping the photo of us in yesterday’s dress rehearsal.

Apollo choreography by George Balanchine©

apollon musagéte

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history, mythology
symbolism wrapped in white
the Youth of Zeus, both god and muse
wheeling in circles toward the light
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artistic divinity, physical symmetry
curator of beauty, movement and word
collector of gesture, youth under pressure
born fresh to a body fore matured

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flexed hands, open hips
collect more space in less time
mice that flinch and toes a-ginch
3 muses scatter a musical rhyme
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Mr. B’s revolving mirrors
simple steps with precise execution
chariots, chains, clocks and trains
final apotheosis: elevated resolution.
– from the mind of Kirsten, channeling Calliope
Apollo choreography by George Balanchine thanks to the George Balanchine Trust©
photos by Melissa Wong.

black and white and gold all over

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November’s golden trees are lighting up the East Side in their vivid dying dance and studio life counters, shifting its fiery red to a cool, autumnal black and white.  At last the final flames of summer have simmered to smoldering coals, reminding us that soon they will be just the ashes of their former selves, prepared to wrap up in a blanket of winter white.  Our fall series of Up Close On Hope is coming right up, and MAN, it’s going to be a good one.

As I’ve mentioned before, the first half of this month’s program features George Balanchine’s Apollo.  It’s a simple ballet with a powerful score, a nod to Greek mythology, and an impressive history.  I feel so honored to be dancing Calliope, the muse of poetry.  She’s a dramatic, wounded artiste with far more weighty words than her little heart can hold.  Funny when ballet life parallels the real world, isn’t it?  (Just kidding….kind of.)

The second half of UPOH comprises the Bach Suites: 3 world premieres and 2 pas de deuxs set to the timeless music of Mr. Johann Sebastian Bach.  To create the movement, FBP has called upon two new (to us) choreographers, husband-and-wife pair Andrea Shelley and Spencer Hering, as well company member Ty Parmenter, resident choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, and artistic director Misha Djuric.  Perhaps the most exciting element of this program points to the talented local musicians who will play Bach’s brilliant Suites live(!) in our black box theatre.  There’s something so special about live dance and music together- visible comments being made by the choreography and its dancers, reciprocated by the score in such a distinctive way.  This intimate conversation between artists both visual and auditory is at its most pure when remarks are made in real time, responses emerging spontaneously.  The product is altered ever so slightly from the last run, the dress rehearsal, the walk through the night before.  Such reliance on impulse, acute awareness, physical innervation.  Here I go with my excessive words again…better cut myself off here…

for tickets.

Apollo Choreography by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust, Apollo photos by Eric Hovermale

rethink ballet

How cool is this new “Rethink Ballet” promotional clip from Boston Ballet?  The slow-motion quality and pared down setting allow for a unique observation of each dancers gorgeous technique.  There’s something so satisfying about seeing the climax of a saut de chat when the moments just before have been warped in temporal extension.  A soaring jump is lovely, but a perfect preparation satiates the soul, am I right?  Stretched speeds, prolonged lines, and an apparent refusal to accept all matters of physics.  Are you rethinking ballet yet?

Tonight I will be attending BB’s final program at the Boston Opera House, Thrill of Contact, and with Balanchine, Forsythe, Robbins and Cirio on the bill, I must say my hopes are very high.  Such an incredible repertoire, and the charming principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio’s mainstage debut as a choreographer- sign me up!

balance, balanchine, and broken bones

In so many ways, this season has been one that I will always remember.

I started out by taking a little trip down memory lane, recreating two pieces I first performed in high school…546956_3917191296764_1686849931_n156490_3966715814846_1748587314_n

…and also performing in an explosive World Premiere by the edgy Georgian choreographer, George Birkhadze, who currently resides in Boston with his beautiful Boston-Ballet-Soloist wife.  Performing alongside me in this particular piece were two of my best friends.  How lucky am I to have the honor of sharing the experience of learning, rehearsing and performing a brand new work with two of my besties?!601918_4290054418109_642117256_n

Next came The Nutcracker.  Considering the fact that I have been onstage in this very production of the holiday classic for 14 years now, the fact that I can call this one memorable is a biiig deal.  This year I was challenged with the role of the Spanish divert.  With blonde hair and Scandinavian roots, I had several meltdowns about the intimidating task of performing with that unmistakable snappy Spanish flare before dancing the role opening night and surprising myself with a confidence I never knew I had.  Special shout out to Alex for making it one of the most fun parts I’ve ever danced!548767_4140715164721_1205807527_n

After Nut came our collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design’s fashion/apparel department and Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev for Little Red Riding Hood.  The second installment of Boyko’s choreography on FBP designed for a young audience, this show was accented by hand-made (by students my age!) costumes, each more interesting than the next.  We also got to model in the RISD fashion critique, and a few of my fellow bunheads are walking (and dancing?) in the world-famous RISD fashion show this weekend!  How cool!12977_4448438137603_1496460035_n 999c2881

The next show, Agon & Orchis, was without a doubt the most memorable of my career so far.  My first time ever performing a Balanchine work would have been memorable enough, but Agon surpassed even my own expectations.  What an incredibly daunting and rewarding ballet it was.  I’m telling you, Agon is known to be one of Mr. B’s most complicated ballets (so much counting!) and performing two very different roles forced me to really think, instead of relying on muscle memory.  Such a unique experience!  Working with one of Balanchine’s original dancers, Sandra Jennings, was equally amazing.  I mean, she is a legend in the ballet world.  Growing close with her and hearing her feedback on my performance was incredible.  Orchis, an all-new contemporary ballet and the collaborative brainchild of choreographer Viktor Plotnikov, photographer Cemal Ekin, RI glass artist Toots Zynsky, RISD fashion department head Beth Bentley, Russian composer Sonya Belousova, and lighting designer Alan Pickart, will not soon be forgotten by anyone involved, including our audience.  There’s little I can say for Orchis besides masterpiece.  A genius, surreal, gravity-defying work of art.  I will always remember this ballet, and look forward to hopefully dancing it again one day.  I even made it into a major Turkish magazine!734409_494802730582057_621539993_n 577228_4638749775275_1357548708_nHurriyet 74408_4646266523189_445316378_n 74431_4646267563215_938506634_n

Also contributing to my inclination toward this show is the fact that following opening night’s performance, I was promoted from Apprentice to full Company Member.  This is something I have been working toward since my first time dancing in a ballet 14 years ago.  To have all of the blood, sweat and tears I’ve shed throughout the years recognized in such a public and exciting way was so special.  A fulfilling moment in my life that I will hold onto forever, for sure.482297_10152654690810385_817495648_n

So then it was on to my first performance with my new company status.  Another round of original and classical works for the upcoming Up Close series.  I was to perform in 3 different pieces.  This is when the back pain I’d been feeling all year started to get real.  I would walk home slumped over like an old woman, and spend weeks at a time flat on the couch, unable to bend or twist at all.  I pulled it together enough to dance one of the pieces I was cast in, as well as an encore production of Little Red that same weekend.  Doing so, however, left my back in more severe pain than I’d ever felt before.  The company dove into rehearsals for our Spring show, The Sleeping Beauty, in which I was cast in several of my dream roles…Bluebird and Lilac Fairy.  But as the company rehearsed, I watched from the side in my corset-like back brace, trying to pick up the choreography and intricate miming without tipping to either side, as not to upset my angry back muscles.  It was only a few days later when I received my first ever bone scan, and became aware of the stress fracture in my spine that I’m convinced has been hanging out back there for quiiiite a few months now.  So that was that.  I left the hospital with a fracture, a heavy heart and orders not too dance for 6-8 weeks.

This injury, however sad and painful, has brought to light some kind of strange inner peace.  To have my pain justified, the opportunity to see my friends perform Sleeping Beauty, new Parisian plans to take French language classes instead of the dance intensive this summer…these things have all changed me for the better.  I remember the first time I fell onstage.  I was performing Musicbox, the solo pictured in the first photo of this post.  After I came off stage, one of the principle dancers with FBP, who was also my teacher at the time, told me, “Welcome to the club.  Every professional dancer has at least one big fall.  Now you’re one of us.”  I will never forget those kind words.  Now, as I experience the hardships of my first real injury, her reassurance that these things are all part of this profession comforts me.  Knowing that I am not the first, and will surely not be the last ballet dancer to suffer a spinal stress fracture keeps me balanced.  In a way, it almost feels good- emphasis on the almost– to think that this injury is a result of all my hard work this year.  A badge of honor, so to speak.  So now that it’s summer, cheers to a wonderful season full of ups and downs (but mostly ups!), locating my inner sass, Balanchine counting and petit allegro, floating Orchids, a promotion and a stress fracture.  Next up, Paris!  Stay tuned…

one more day.

We became moving sculptures in the genius hands of Viktor Plotnikov.72694_490503401011990_2141643510_nWe practiced and perfected the infamous “big lift”.11508_490911080971222_308885423_nWe memorized the incredibly complicated counts that define the “Agon” between Balanchine and Stravinsky.549274_491364484259215_520626236_nWe studied the lines of not only our own bodies, but those of our partners.553286_491740090888321_184200034_nWe worked tirelessly with dedicated Balanchine repetiteur, Sandy Jennings to ensure that each head, hand, and foot movement was exactly right.blogWe were published in a Turkish magazine.
486083_492703234125340_240110261_nWe pushed our bodies to their limits.576313_493423667386630_334851691_nAnd surpassed them.535381_493983373997326_1757694818_nNow we bring you Agon & Orchis.
549390_494358950626435_399566635_nPlease do not miss it.

happy birthday, balanchine!

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What better way to celebrate George Balanchine’s 109th birthday than completing, running, and filming Agon on our final day with Sandy Jennings.  It’s been such a wonderful experience getting to truly dive into this brilliant man’s unique choreography for the first time.  It’s the most confusing, stylized, specific and freeing kind of dancing I have ever done.  It will certainly be a bit nerve-racking, but I can’t wait to perform it on stage in March.  I hope we’ve been making you proud for the past week, Mr. B.  Happy Birthday!